Published: July 24, 2001
PaineWebber Presents American Art from the Montclair Art Museum
NEW YORK CITY – A new exhibition at the UBS PaineWebber Art Gallery presents a uniquely diverse perspective on American art history, illustrating the development and evolution of a distinct American voice through a variety of styles.
On view from September 20 to November 30, “: American Art from the Montclair Art Museum” examines the development of the museum’s renowned American and Native American collections. Spanning 300 years, the collection features masterpieces of the Hudson River School, Realism and Abstract Expressionism.
Exhibiting seminal works by artists as varied as George Inness, Adolph Gottlieb, Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol as well as traditional and contemporary Native American artists, the museum will present an innovative vision of American art.
Montclair Art Museum has worked since its inception in 1914 to create an expansive collection of American art, encompassing fine art from the Eighteenth Century to the present, as well as traditional and contemporary Native American art representing the cultural developments of indigenous peoples nationwide.
“” exhibits the highlights of this pioneering collection through approximately 80 works, exploring a culturally inclusive interpretation of art history through a varied selection of artists, styles and works.
The collection was directly influenced by Montclair’s history as a Nineteenth Century art colony and cultural center for artists and patrons. One of the many artists drawn to the area was the noted landscape painter George Inness, whose panoramic vistas of the Montclair countryside were among the earliest museum acquisitions and now form a cornerstone of the collection.
Inness expressed his personal impressions of the picturesque landscape in “Delaware Water Gap” (1857), a renowned work widely reproduced by the printmakers Currier & Ives. Inness departed from Hudson River School conventions and incorporated a slightly looser brushwork and hazy atmosphere that relate more closely to European art, foreshadowing the influence of French Barbizon paintings in his later work.
At the same time, the museum also began to collect the works of Native American artists and craftsmen in order to support and document a way of life rapidly fading due to widespread industrialization and displacement of native peoples. Currently, the collection comprises more than 4,000 ethnographic and fine art objects, including baskets, clothing, jewelry, weaponry, tools and household rdf_Descriptions.
The museum’s basketry collection includes the late Nineteenth Century lidded “trinket” basket by the Karuk artist Elizabeth Hickox, made from redwood root, maidenhair fern and porcupine quills. Other collection highlights on view are a Tlingit totem pole, an example of Northwest Coast woodcarving featuring heraldic figures symbolizing a familial name or social standing, and an intricately detailed Sioux shirt, traditionally worn by warriors, spiritual leaders and head of tribes as a badge of office and honor.
“” also provides a concise overview of top American artists and movements through a wide-ranging collection that celebrates America’s diversity of perspectives. In addition to early masterpieces of landscape and portraiture, the exhibition includes seminal works from early American Realist movements.
Paintings such as “Jimmy O’D” (1925) and “Bonfire Snow” (1919) by Ashcan artists Robert Henri and John Sloan explore the grittiness of life with expressive intensity, drawing vitality and power from common subject matter.
Edward Hopper’s eerie American landscape paintings present a haunting vision of life. His “Coast Guard Station” (1929) is a study in light and shadow, as the harsh daylight reveals the complex structure of a building on the Maine coast. The seemingly ordinary image is endowed with mystery and power, leaving the viewer with a sense of isolation and remoteness.
Works by Arthur Dove and Georgia O’Keeffe on view in “” highlight the progress of American art toward abstraction through the observation of nature’s rhythms. The first American artist to work in a non-representational manner, Dove created many subjective, nature-based abstract compositions.
In “Carnival” (1935), a striking example of this style, Dove observed a traveling carnival setting up in a country field, then painted the ghostly silver lines of the Ferris wheel and loop-the-loop dominated by the contoured curves of the organic landscape.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Skunk Cabbage” (1927), also on view, shows her progression from naturalistic treatments to more abstract interpretations. Presenting a strong visual rhythm of opposites, O’Keeffe blends dark and light, curved and linear forms, expressing rejuvenation through the lush blossoms and leaves.
The exhibition also features numerous masterpieces by noted artists of American Abstract Expressionism, including works by Arshile Gorky, Louise Nevelson and George Rickey. Adolph Gottlieb, a founding member of the Abstract Expressionists, explored the timeless and universal truths rooted in man’s collective unconscious through a series of “pictographs,” based on Native American artists’ totemic signs.
Evinced in “Spectre of the Sea” (1947), Gottlieb combines the flat, abstract space of Cubism with the symbolic images of Surrealism, creating a brooding, murky atmosphere. Although based upon ancient pictographs, Gottlieb’s primal symbols and biomorphic shapes evoke a universal language of art beyond interpretation.
“” highlights works by noted modernist masters Man Ray and Andy Warhol, whose interpretations of industrialization, mass production and repetition will also be on view at the UBS PaineWebber Art Gallery. Man Ray’s “Indestructible Object” (1923/1965) and Warhol’s “Twelve Cadillacs” (1962) each explore the iconic nature of a commonplace object, bridging the gap between art and everyday life.
The Montclair Art Museum strives to collect a diverse selection of contemporary African-American and Native American artists. Sculptor Melvin Edwards draws upon African sources, the Western modernist tradition of welded steel sculpture and his African-American heritage for the “Lynch Fragments” series, which he began in 1963.
“Mamelodi” (1986), a work named for the site of an anti-apartheid uprising in South Africa, presents an arrangement of projecting objects based on the form of an African mask.
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s painting “War Shirt” (1992) explores issues of racism through a complex juxtaposition of Native American traditions with popular culture. Combining the image of a man’s war shirt – the ancient symbol of tribal prestige and power – with a collage of advertising images of Native Americans from newspapers and magazines, Smith explores the conflicting perceptions of American Indian life.
“” opens at UBS PaineWebber Gallery while the museum is temporarily closed to complete a $14.5 million expansion designed by the architectural firm of Beyer Blinder Belle, which will double the size of the museum.
The Montclair Art Museum is at 3 South Mountain Avenue. For information, 973-746-5555.
UBS PaineWebber Art Gallery is in the lobby of its world headquarters at 1285 Avenue of the Americas. For information, 212-713-2885.
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